Tonight at Stiffs Night Out at Jake's Food and Spirits (3800 Walnut Street in Denver) we had an amazing night! Not only did we gather to watch the Nuggets battle the Heat, but we were able to raise $1,000 for the Denver Hooperz! Who are the Denver Hooperz?
Denver Hooperz is a Non Profit 501(c)3 certified competitive basketball organization looking to give inner-city At-Risk youth a knowledge base of academics, life skills and basketball fundamentals to take through school fully prepared and eager to be successful as a student-athlete.
The Hooperz raffled off sweatshirts, visors, warm-up jackets, and Nike backpacks. The Stiffs and your Denver Nuggets played some trivia for some goodies. Cliff McQuigg won four Andre Iguodala t-shirt jerseys, Russscot won a JaVale McGee autographed basketball, and Melissa Martinez won tickets to the upcoming Heat vs. Nuggets re-match!
Jeff Morton, Andrew Feinstein and I would like to thank everyone for their charitable donations to the Hooperz and for coming out for another successful Stiffs Night Out! We'll get a win next time!
To the game ...
Andre Iguodala tried to play the role of hero tonight. His jumper over Dwyane Wade put the Nuggets ahead 116-115 with 14 seconds to play. Stiffs Nation at Jake's erupted as his jumper hit nothing but net. I turned to Jeff Morton and said, "Iguodala has to cover LeBron James here right?" We both agreed. George Karl had other thoughts, again turning to Kenneth Faried to do the dirty work on the defensive end.
On a couple previous Heat possessions, Faried also covered "The King". James beat him for a layup on one play, but Faried got the best of James on another - forcing him to miss a short-jumper. On the last Heat possession, Faried again stayed with James as LeBron tried driving down the left side of the lane. As LeBron is known to do, he didn't force a bad shot, he instead chose to pass to Ray Allen in the corner as Corey Brewer cheated over to lend a hand on James. Allen, the all-time three-pointers made record holder, did what he does best and buried a big shot. To add injury to insult, Brewer clobbered Allen leading to a four-point play that forced the Nuggets to need a three to tie the game with six seconds left.
Danilo Gallinari, 3-17 on the night (1-9 from deep), took a long-bomb that just a little too strong and the Nuggets fell to 0-3 on the season. There were a lot of positives to take away from this game and if there is ever a "good loss" - this was it.
Chris Bosh, the Stiffs commenters favorite GIF friend led the Heat with an incredible 40 point performance on 15-22 shooting, including 9-10 from the charity stripe. Faried and Iguodala each led the Nuggets with 22 points a piece.
I was impressed with the Nuggets offense tonight. On the second of a back-to-back, Karl shortened his rotations and his players rewarded him with a burst of offensive firepower. The starters remained the same, but the bench was shortened to just Andre Miller, Corey Brewer, and McGee (Wilson Chandler didn't play due to the game being a back-to-back and the team bringing him back slowly from hip surgery in the off-season).
Faried was very impressive. After playing just 17 minutes against the Sixers and 20 minutes against the Magic, he was on the floor for 36 minutes tonight and exploded for 22 points on 11-15 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds - 7 offensive!
The Nuggets only tallied 13 team assists, but I swear the player movement and ball movement were much improved over the first two contests. The Nuggets were credited with only 6 fastbreak points, to the Heat's 14 fastbreak points, but Denver was playing quicker - making decisions faster. McGee also responded with more minutes tonight, after playing just 11 minutes in Orlando, 23 in total and a 6-9 shooting effort for 16 points (4-5 from the foul line!!) and 9 rebounds (4 offensive). McGee had some solid scoring possessions and got himself into a bit of a groove. Hopefully we'll see more of that.
The Nuggets need to figure out how to cover big guys, and quickly. Karl remarked during the pre-season that his best defensive big was probably Wilson Chandler. Well, Chandler isn't big and he can't be counted on to cover the Glen Davis loads or the lanky Chris Bosh types. Davis killed the Nuggets in Orlando with 29 points, his career high is 31 points! Tonight, Bosh was a Nuggets killer. He was deadly from all over the floor and led the Heat with the aforementioned 40 points. Denver can't afford to let the oppositions role player hurt them this season. Bosh is much more than a role player and focusing on James and Wade is where the Nuggets have their best defensive pieces (Iguodala, Gallo, and Chandler). But Denver needs better defense out of Faried, McGee, and Koufos.
This was a tough loss as many Nuggets had good nights. Lawson and Iguodala looked like they are getting more comfortable with this offense and they were attacking with purpose tonight. Andre Miller was doing his usual old school thing and making some acrobatic layups too. But Gallo and Corey Brewer struggled offensively. They each had their moments, but combining to go 7-27 just shouldn't happen.
At the half I was talking with Russ and Vicki (the Sign Lady!) about the improved play and I said if the game keeps going the way it was that we'd get to see how the Nuggets would play in a tightly contested game. We got to see just that. Had Brewer not fouled Allen, we could have seen what Karl could draw up to tie up the game with a two or perhaps win it with a three. But being forced to take a three, the Nuggets didn't get a great look as Gallo was well beyond the three-point line.
We were told it would be bad for Iguodala to take jumpers to win games ... he showed he's capable of rising up (over Wade) and knocking down big shots. The defense let the Nuggets down tonight. It's tough to point at Brewer and say, "Why would you leave Ray Allen?!?!" But Karl has said (on the association last year) that he doesn't get upset when guys help out. Brewer tried to cheat over and slap the ball away from LeBron as he drove the lane and looked to be going up for a jumper, but LBJ is known for passing the ball in big spots and more often than not, guys get called for reach in fouls doing what Brewer tried to do ... costly mistake.
The Nuggets are still without a win, but I feel like we finally saw the Nuggets were are used to and the team that pushed the Lakers to seven games last year. Perhaps this will be the start of something good ...
The Nuggets will finally get a home game on Tuesday (Nov. 6th) as they face the Detroit Pistons.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nate_Timmons